Irom Sharmila is fighting another fight — for her right to lovehttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/irom-sharmila-is-fighting-another-fight-for-her-right-to-love/

Irom Sharmila is fighting another fight — for her right to love

Supporters deny Manipuri activist’s charge of trying to keep her from fiance.

It is not the usual story about Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila. This time she is fighting for another right — the right to love.

In an interview in the Kolkata edition of The Telegraph on Monday,Sharmila was quoted as saying she was in love with Desmond Coutinho,a British citizen of Goan descent,that they were engaged and that her supporters were against the relationship. She wished,she said,they did not “view her as a superhero”.

In his blog on http://www.manipurtalks.com,48-year-old Coutinho says he hopes to marry Sharmila once AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) is repealed. “Then I will live with her because we love come what may,” writes Coutinho,who has met Sharmila just once — in March this year when he came to Manipur. They stay in touch through correspondence.

“Insurgents have been aggressively pushing the position that I am an agent of the Indian Government trying to break Sharmila’s fast. The Indian Government has refused to let us meet. The only Manipuris who do not have an agenda and are happy for us are ordinary people,” adds Coutinho.

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Sharmila’s supporters say they are hurt at accusations that they are trying to keep her apart from Coutinho,even as they reassert support to her and her 11-year fast against the AFSPA.

“The Indian government has not let any of us meet her in three months. Where is the scope to bar her fiancé from meeting her?” Babloo Loitongbam of The Justice Foundation,which has been handling her campaign,said.

Loitongbam questioned the impression that they were forcing Sharmila to fast. “She herself has said she will not marry till AFSPA is withdrawn.”

Sharmila has been quoted in The Telegraph as saying her supporters were against Coutinho because he was of Goan descent and a British citizen.

Kuki leader Helam Haokip,another Sharmila supporter,said: “Of course,she should have a normal life… But we personally believe this is an attempt by the government and the media to drive a wedge.”

Meanwhile,Coutinho has said in her blog he does not want Sharmila to die. “I believe we can have a happy life together wherever she chooses to live. She will choose Manipur and I choose her.”